The Shiv Aroor-Rahul Singh India’s Most Fearless books, about modern military heroes, have already provided material for two army-centric web shows on SonyLiv. The first season, Avrodh: The Siege Within, about the Uri surgical strike, vigorously waved the patriotic flag and perhaps justifiably so, since this operation has been described as a triumph of intelligence and military strategy.
The second season, directed by Raj Acharya, written by Brijesh Jayrajan and Sudeep Niga, and made on a similarly grand scale, is much more complicated. This time, the enemies across the border have a more elaborate plot for the “tabahi” (destruction) of India – destabilising the economy by a massive influx of counterfeit currency.
A smartly suited professor Ehsaan Waziri (Sanjay Suri) tells ISI’s General Aziz (Rajesh Khattar) – both wearing standard-issue sneers – that India will soon be on its knees. They declare that they will bring back the glory of the Mughal era – as if the Mughals were Pakistani!
We know, of course, that is not going to happen as long as smart intelligence men, brave soldiers and that underappreciated network of informants keep ticking.
The hero here is Pradeep (Abir Chatterjee), who works with Mumbai’s Income Tax department to unearth black money. When the need arises, he gets into uniform and goes on field operations.
If the token female in the first series was a journalist, here it it’s Pakistani agent Parveena (Aahana Kumra), who travels all over India recruiting cohorts. She is on the mission because her brother was sent to Guantanamo Bay for his role in the London bombings. Her compass is a bit off, but then logic is not the strong suit of any series with a bigger agenda.
The intricate plot is painstakingly unravelled. Teams follow the money trail into shell companies, decrypt vague clues, halt infiltration at the border and foil the plot with the help of informants from Kashmir to Seychelles. All this is fast-paced and some of the chases and action set pieces are well executed.
But the show hits a roadblock when it detours to a conference room in Delhi, where frowning suits (less virulent this time) from the last show – the National Security Advisor (Neeraj Kabi), Defence Secretary (Ananth Mahadevan) and Finance Secretary (Bhuvanesh Shetty) – discuss the state of the economy with the Prime Minister (Mohan Agashe taking over from Vikram Gokhale). They discuss economic reforms, GST, demonetisation and the plan to digitise India – “arthvyavastha ko sashakt karna” plans by countering black money, counterfeit notes and inflation.
They anticipate problems and delays, but the PM has an aphorism for every occasion: if you can’t take stains out of the old kurta, get a new one.
The Pakistanis are as cartoonish as before. One marvels at the effort, ingenuity and resources expended on wrecking India instead of saving their own country.
The worrisome aspect of this show and others like it is the fuelling of anti-minority fires. The scenes involving helpless Muslim men caught up in schemes of which they are ignorant border on the tragic. There is, however, the mandatory patriotic Muslim, Major Imtiaz Ahmed (Vijay Krishna), who fights alongside Pradeep.
Avrodh has gloss, multiple locations and a cast of thousands that a big budget can buy. But after watching similar series (The Family Man, Special Ops), you can’t tell them apart after a point.
While it is heartening and somewhat reassuring to see that the country is safe as long as so many people work round the clock to keep the enemy at bay, maybe it’s time to explore other aspects of the narrative.